- Many Indonesian seafarers on domestic and foreign vessels lack adequate training in safety and fishing operations, which experts say leaves them vulnerable to exploitation and endangerment.
- Fisheries and human rights watchdogs are calling for an overhaul of the government’s training program for fishermen ahead of a planned review of measures to protect maritime workers at home and abroad.
- Indonesia ratified an International Maritime Organization (IMO) convention on the protection of crews working on board domestic and foreign vessels in 2019, and its progress in implementing it is to be assessed in 2024.
- Indonesia, one of the largest fish producers in the world, is home to some 2.3 million people who identify as fishermen and boat crews working on domestic and foreign fleets.
JAKARTA — Fisheries and human rights watchdogs in Indonesia are calling for an overhaul of the country’s fisher training curriculum ahead of a planned assessment of measures to protect maritime workers at home and abroad.
Indonesia, one of the largest fish producers in the world, is home to some 2.3 million people who identify as fishermen and boat crews working on domestic and foreign fleets. However, many of them lack adequate training in fishing safety and operations, which experts say leaves them vulnerable to abusive employment practices and puts their lives at risk.
A survey conducted from February to April by the NGO Destructive Fishing Watch (DFW) Indonesia revealed that only 6% of the 45 deckhands working in the country’s largest fishing port, Nizam Zachman Port in Jakarta, owned a basic security certification issued by the government. The relatively high cost of basic training and certification, combined with low awareness of the benefits and poor inspection at ports are some of the reasons fishers do not enroll in the certification program, a found DFW.
“Such certification is essential as proof of their presence as crew on fishing vessels,” DFW national coordinator Mohamad Abdi Suhufan told Mongabay in a recent interview.
Indonesia ratified in 2019 the 1995 Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Personnel of Fishing Vessels (STCW-F), which includes international guidelines for the protection of crews working on board national vessels. and foreigners. The International Maritime Organization (IMO), which oversees the STCW-F, is due to assess Indonesia’s efforts to implement the agreement in 2024.
In recent years, the Indonesian government has encouraged fishermen and deckhands across the archipelago to attend formal courses at training centers or institutes. It also set up free training for small-scale fishers nationwide and undertook to overhaul training and certification facilities as well as update the fisherman training curriculum to comply with international standards. But experts say more can be done to help potential maritime workers enroll in the scheme, including involving local governments more in allocating funds for certification.
“The Migrant Labor Protection Law is clear that provincial governments must allocate funds for training and education, but in Indonesia only three provinces have already done so: East Java, West Java and Sulawesi. North,” Fadilla Octaviani, director of law enforcement and access to justice at the Indonesia Ocean Justice Initiative (IOJI), a Jakarta-based think tank, said during a recent discussion on line.
At the same time, the Indonesian government is forging “sea-based” bilateral agreements to protect the rights of its citizens working on fishing boats under the flags of other countries, in a bid to combat labor abuses and abuses. modern slavery. Migrant boat crews from Indonesia and the Philippines make up a large part of Taiwan’s offshore fleet, one of the top five in the world and responsible for an industry valued at $2 billion a year, according to Greenpeace. The group quoted the Taiwan Fisheries Agency as saying 21,994 Indonesian fishermen were employed on Taiwanese coastal and distant-water fishing vessels in June 2019.
“But diplomacy starts at home. This is how we empower, empower our sea workers, and it starts with them knowing their rights while they are still in Indonesia, before they sign the contract, and knowing the reporting mechanism in case of violation,” Judha Nugraha, the Indonesian foreigner director of the Ministry for the Protection of Indonesian Citizens Abroad, said in a recent online chat.
At home, Indonesia recently issued a long-awaited decree to strengthen the protection of Indonesian deckhands working on board foreign commercial and fishing vessels. The new regulations also include a labor regime and standards of conditions based on a global convention on work in fishing from the United Nations International Labor Organization, known as ILO C188; the introduction of collective agreements for migrant workers; and the creation of an integrated database on migrant workers between relevant government agencies.
Former migrant deckhands from Indonesia have previously described dire, even deadly, working conditions aboard foreign ships, including overwork, withholding wages, debt bondage, and physical and sexual violence. Under these conditions, many are forced to shorten their employment contracts, which usually last about two years, and to waive the deposits they were usually required to pay to obtain the jobs. Experts also note that forced labor on board fishing vessels often goes hand in hand with illegal fishing.
“So far, we have paid a lot of attention to fish stock recovery and quality, but little to the social aspect and welfare of fishermen and fishing boat crews,” said Abdi from DFW. “There must be a balance between productivity and social well-being [in fisheries].”
See related: Mongabay’s award-winning investigation into the mistreatment of workers aboard a Chinese tuna fishing fleet, here.
Basten Gokkon is senior writer for Indonesia at Mongabay. Find him on Twitter @bgokkon.
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